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Indian telecom operators lack innovation and are anti-competitive: Bhavin Turakhia

Against the response from telcos to a TRAI paper on internet telephony, serial entrepreneur Bhavin Turakhia said that telcos in India are reluctant to drive innovation.

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According to serial entrepreneur Bhavin Turakhia, the co-founder of the $1.4-billion Directi Group, telecom operators in the country are “reluctant” in driving innovation and their demand of only service providers being allowed to offer internet telephony is “anti-competitive”. He claimed that internet telephony in India is “under threat from major telecom players”. His statement reads, “Incumbent providers like Vodafone, Airtel, Idea, etc are reluctant to reduce costs and drive innovation. Allegedly, incumbent operators are claiming that only the telecom carrier that provides a data connection to a subscriber should be allowed to offer internet telephony to that subscriber over their internet connection.”

Internet telephony allows users to make calls to any phone number over the web. “Internet telephony enables customers to make calls at 1/3rd the current calling rates and provides numerous benefits such as the ability to make calls over Wi-Fi in bad signal areas, 90 percent cheaper international calling, HD voice, and innovations like simultaneous data transmission, video calls, and many more,” he said. He also said that the comments made by incumbents in response to a TRAI paper “make inaccurate claims and representations”. To counter the stand of telecom operators in their response to TRAI’s consultation paper on internet telephony dated June 22, 2016, Turakhia, along with iSPIRIT, has launched a ‘Free Your Voice’ campaign.

The paper intends to introduce prospective policies, recommendations and clarifications concerning internet telephony in India. Sudhir Singh from iSPIRT said the government should remove all “shackles”. “Leaving internet telephony only to the incumbent large telcos will not be in the interest of consumer. Regulator should fit in the entry of number of small and medium size players, also. This will help innovation, micro and small businesses and availability of variety of niche services,” he added. In his first brush with the telcos last year, Turakhia had launched a service — Ringo — which allowed users to make domestic calls at 19 paisa a minute. This was almost 90 percent cheaper than then prevalent charges as it used conference system over landlines. The service was then suspended after Bharti Airtel chairman Sunil Mittal commented that apps like Ringo were “gaming the system” to hurt operators.